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Complaining

All the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron,and the whole community told them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt, or if only we had died in this wilderness!
-Numbers 14:2

We live in a complaining culture and most Christians complain constantly.  Have you ever wondered why complaining is a constant thing for many people?  I think it is one of the easiest ways for us to be taken off-track, off-point, fouled-out, de-commissioned or sidelined.

Many years ago, I went to a conference.  And between sessions, we heard people in the halls complaining that the bathrooms were not well stocked.  Many times, in later years I noticed that we could complain that the music was too loud, too soft; or that the a/c was too cold or too stuffy and a hundred other things.

And that is just complaining in church, where all sorts of good things are happening.  We complained a lot more during the other six days of the week.

There are many Bible verses that say that we must have faith.  God does many things, the biggest of which was sending Jesus.  And our little job is to have faith or believe.  We had a saying when I was a boy, "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it!"

Complaining kills or puts a wet blanket on faith or 'faith-ing'.  Two people are encountering the same difficulty.  One has faith, holding God in their heart; while the other complains, and turns away from God.

When we complain, we are not having faith, and we are making a choice that is turning away from God.  To pray to God about the difficulty is a whole different matter and is completely endorsed by God, because when we pray, we are exercising faith and turning towards God.

It is wise to turn your complaint into a prayer.  In the story cited in Numbers 14, all of the people complained about Moses and Aaron.  The 'about' is the problem.  The better way that would have been if they cried out to the Lord.

They could have said, "God, this looks impossible; what are we going to do!", or anything along those lines.  And it is the same thing today, with us and our difficulties.  I always think of this line from the song, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus":

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

We are so accustomed to constantly complaining.  Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, podcasts, and 'news' articles; are often:

  • Complaints
  • Criticisms
  • Grievances
  • Taking umbrage
  • Seething discontent: murmuring or grumbling
So, as Christians, when we do life, we complain.  And then we wonder why our lives do not work, why we have no power and little authority.

When Christians gather, whether in a tiny group of two or three, or in a small group at a house, or with a larger group in a building; we come with our complaints and grievances, oftentimes against leaders or authority people.

The story told in Numbers 13 and 14 explores the themes of God offering a great gift, that to some seems too good to be true.  And unfortunately, some people take a gift from God a despise it.  They do not accept it and ridicule it as being a cruel joke.

A man or a woman hears about and is given the gospel of Jesus, including what He did on the cross and what that means about God and for us.  And that man or woman rejects the gospel and despises the gift of God.  We might say, "they don't get it", "they aren't ready", or even, "they aren't chosen"; and we know that there is this issue of Satan blinding the hearts of people, so they can not see the truth of the gospel.

But what about people who are already saved and delivered from the spiritual blindness that Satan inflicts on non-believers?  What about people who cannot or will not grow up and move on to maturity in their Christian lives?  

What about the figurative mountain of maturity that people refuse to scale, that has gifts for them waiting on each higher level; and many believers choose to live their whole lives in the valley, looking at the mountain before them as being 'too hard'?

All of Exodus and the first 13 chapters of Numbers, looks forward to the people of God getting into the promised land.  After all that build up and expectation, as a people, they say, "no".  They turn God down and don't believe.

They don't trust God.  A foundation of the life is trusting God.  The Israelites had all those signs and wonders in their history, but when the final exam came or at the moment of truth, their trust was not there.

How does the story of the rejection of God and the promises of God that go all the way back to Abraham and Sarah, apply to Christians today who complain?  Maybe the common denominator is covenant.  They were in a covenant with God that they broke that day and we also are in a covenant with God.

In a covenant, each side promises to do certain things.  It boils down to God saving us and us saying, "yes", or "yes, I will let you save me, which entails my surrendering my whole life to you".

When they said, "It's too hard!", and when we say the same, we are forgetting the covenant where God says that He does the saving and we do the obeying.  When we begin to talk 'about' God and 'about' how what God is asking of us is 'too hard', we are in trouble.  Another way we do it, is that we talk 'about' all our problems and leave God out of the equation.  

We become 'unbelieving believers' (oxymoronic).  We do a whole variety of Christian activities, but we constantly express unbelief and covenant breaking through complaining.  We seethe with grievances.  We have little of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We belong to the community of believers, but we don't believe.  The story of the Israelites refusing to go into their land of promise is a very tragic and sad story.  And why is it in the Bible, both for the pre-Jesus people and for us?

It is a lesson on faith and obedience.  It is a lesson called "Trust God".  Back then, under the Old Covenant, and now, under the New Covenant; God brings us to Himself, for His glory; and we must in turn, reciprocally give over our lives to Him, in trust and obedience, by His grace and through faith.

Instead of complaining, pray.  If you are a 'cry baby', at least cry to God and let God love you.  If you are fearful, turn to God for comfort and strength.

When someone complains, love them and say, "let's pray".  If they have a story and praying with them just is not going to happen, then be like Jesus was with the woman at the well (John 4): listen to her and listen to what the Spirit of God is saying and gives you to say to her that will bring her closer to God.

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